Prices presented in this document
Where available we have presented the prices that these animals are selling for in the various markets. The intent of this is not only to show present market conditions, but also to give insight into the various drivers and economic factors relating to the trade.
The Chinese to US currency exchange rate is about 8 Yuan Renminbi (RMB) to $1 Dollar (USD)
The Chinese to Euro exchange rate is about 7.8 Yuan Renminbi (RMB) to 1 Euro (EUR)
It is a common misconception that the reason for the existence of the animal markets is a protein hunger by the burgeoning Chinese population. The variety and mass of animals are, in this mindset, just an extension of that hunger in a market economy that has just recently been extended by the opening of Chinese borders to trade.
The Tdctrade web site states that the Chinese per capita annual income in urban centers was 6860 RMB in 2001. (information provided by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council) That's $827. We found that a Cuora trifasciata sells for $1000 per Kg or $500 for a four inch specimen. Manouria impressa are about $50-80 as are Geochelone platynota. Some North American native species run around 600 RMB to several thousand RMB apiece. Even the food market staple, Pelodiscus sinensis, is $5 a Kg. This is a huge percentage of the average Chinese' income.
A typical price for chicken or pork in the Guangzhou market is $1.25 per Kg, fish is even cheaper at $0.75 - $1.00 per Kg. It can safely be said that the driving force behind the turtle markets is not as simple as hunger. This is not a case of a country striving for a needed protein source. The poor in China do not eat turtles, they cannot afford to. What exists in China today is a rapidly expanding middle and upper class with money to spend on luxury items. These luxury items can come in the form of high priced pets, expensive traditional Chinese medicines and unique dining experiences.
Another misconception is that the animal trade is solely a small entrepreneurial business with the animals all being sold and resold through family owned shops. This is true on the mainland where complete families are involved with each shop. Most of the shop or stall owners on the mainland live literally on the second floor of these shops with their families. In contrast, in Hong Kong it is also an industry as can be seen in the example of the professionally produced can of turtle soup shown on the right (complete with a photograph of a Cuora trifasciata on the lable).
China is a rapidly advancing country. There is massive reconstruction ongoing, a semi-capitalistic society taking hold. The food and pet market society has been there forever yet old buildings are coming down and new shopping areas are going in. What the future holds for the established animal markets remains to be seen. This photodocumentary is a recording of conditions now. It is our hope that the advances to come both within and outside of China will be in the best interest of wildlife preservation. This is not a struggle that any one country can shoulder alone, nor can all changes come from without. The world stands ready, if asked, to work with China on this issue.
World Chelonian Trust
PO Box 1445